, FEBRUARY 19, 2007 (STAR) By Michael Punongbayan - Authorities will hold an exercise to test the capabilities of Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA-3) in preparation for its opening next month.

Retired Gen. Angel Atutubo, NAIA assistant general manager for security and emergency services, said in an interview this weekís drill will involve the use of NAIA-3 and an actual aircraft with passengers on board.

"We will simulate arrival and departure with more people who will actually board and disembark from an aircraft," he said.

Atutubo said NAIA-3ís centralized air-conditioning system will be tested, along with the X-ray machines, conveyors, counters and other equipment.

"We will simulate how security would be implemented, passenger flow, how passengers would be screened, the check-in counter, pre-departure, everything," he said.

Atutubo said some 200 to 300 personnel will man the new terminal when it opens to international flights, except those of Philippine Airlines.

"Itís ready," he said. "So are the cables, telephone lines, and the likes."

Preparations outside NAIA-3 are also almost completed, he added.

Atutubo said the street in front of the NAIA-3 has been expanded into two lanes on each side.

"Thatís a P50-million project by the MIAA, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways," he said.

Four days before its scheduled test run last year, part of the ceiling of NAIA 3 collapsed.

No one was injured when the ceiling caved in near the arrivals section.

At that time, lawyer Oscar Paras Jr., Manila International Airport Authority assistant general manager, told reporters that Takenaka Corp., the Japanese firm subcontracted by the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (Piatco) to build NAIA-3 in 1998, called to inform them that part of the ceiling had collapsed at around 9 a.m.

"They will have a lot of explaining to do," he said.

MIAA general manager Alfonso Cusi immediately canceled the test run of the controversial terminal upon learning of the incident.

"As of now, we are calling off any trial test runs scheduled at the end of the month, until such time that we are fully assured of the safety, not only of the area affected by the collapse, but of the entire terminal," he said in a statement.

"Of course, of paramount importance to us is the safety of the users of our terminals, which we cannot compromise."

Cusi said they have asked Takenaka to explain the circumstances behind the collapse of the ceiling in an area measuring between 80 to 100 square meters.

"We are also conducting our own independent investigation of the incident, considering the lives that may have been endangered because of the location where the collapse occurred," he said.

"We will report the outcome of our investigation as soon as it is ready. In the meantime, we shall continue to prepare the terminal for operation because you all know the same is not 100-percent complete."

Two flights to Hong Kong via Cebu Pacific were supposed to have been the maiden trips made at the new terminal, which is designed to handle 13 million passengers each year.

The $650-million NAIA-3 was built by a consortium that included Germanyís Fraport AG and was completed in 2002.

It has been mothballed for the past three years after President Arroyo said certain provisions of the contract were later found to be disadvantageous to the government.

The government said construction was also substandard and that changes had to be made.

The terminal was set to be opened officially last year to ease passenger traffic in Metro Manilaís two existing terminals.

Last year, the Supreme Court said the government could not begin to operate the terminal until it paid an initial P3 billion to the Fraport-led consortium.

Fraport is pursuing compensation through the World Bank, but the government rejected its request for $425 million.

The government said it would need an extra $6 million to refurbish the terminal before full operation can begin after engineers found more than 40 construction defects.

Constructed starting 1997, the modern NAIA-3 occupies 189,000 square meters and has a capacity of 13 million passengers per year.

Once opened, NAIA-3 will take over all of the operations of Terminal 1 and the Manila Domestic Passenger Terminal. It has 28 airbridges, 20 contact and eight non-contact, and can service 28 aircraft all at once.

NAIA-3 is built on a 63.5-hectare lot that used to be part of Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

A four-level shopping mall connects the terminal and parking buildings.

The parking building has a capacity of 2,000 cars, while the outdoor parking area has a capacity of 1,200 cars.

NAIA-3 is capable of servicing 33,000 passengers daily at peak or 6,000 passengers per hour.

The terminal has 70 flight information terminals, 314 display monitors, with 300 kilometers of fiber optics I.T. cabling. It also has 29 restroom blocks.

The departure area has five entrances all equipped with X-ray machines with the final security check having 18 X-ray machines, while its baggage claim has seven large baggage carousels, each with its own flight display monitor.

NAIA-3 has no jet bridges, but instead uses movable stairways, with passengers either being transported to the terminal or vice versa either by bus or on foot. 

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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